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I still have faith
Do you guys remember, long, long ago, how I used to post "Sunday Sermons" where I talked about church, and my faith, and explained spiritual concepts that I believed in? I used to write them partly to explain to my friends how I could be the fairly liberal weirdo I am and still belong to such a conservative church. They were also partly a way for me to work through my own thoughts, and partly posted in hope that they might provide a bit of spiritual uplift for somebody reading them.

I don't expect I have many readers left here at this point, but I feel like posting another one. (I considered posting this to Facebook, but I don't think it would really accomplish anything there, it would just invite my relatives to argue with me more, which I am pretty well sick of by now.)

Anyway... I need to start by explaining the events of the past week or so in the Mormon world. It's very much a tempest in a teapot, so most of you probably won't have heard much about it, though bits and pieces of it have made the national news. In fact it was a news article that first let me know WTF was going on when I started to see a handful of liberal-leaning and/or gay Mormon friends post about how they were heartbroken about the new policy.

The Mormon church has never exactly been pro-gay, but it feels to me like since somewhere in the late 90's they've started to become obsessed with gay marriage, and the "destruction" of the traditional family. I don't know, I used to hear a bit about the family thing growing up, but never so much as a peep about gays. Not even in the youth sunday school, where we sure heard enough about the evils of sex in all other forms. Now, though, it seems like every single general conference has something about gays, and every year the church gets a bit louder, a bit more strident, in arguing that the gays are ruining everything and need to be opposed.

That rhetoric never quite sat well with me, but mostly I could just ignore it. Then things changed. The church's opposition to Prop. 8 was the first time I ever found myself feeling angry at the church leadership. Not even because of the law itself, but because for my entire life they'd stood by their espoused doctrine of "teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves", but now they violated their usual policy that the church never tells its members how to vote on any specific issue/candidate and told its members how to vote on Prop 8. Called them to campaign to convince others how to vote too, even. I hated that. They'd gone against their own teachings, just because they somehow thought this issue was important enough to violate their principles over. That kind of "end justifies means" thinking is just plain wrong to me, and really upset me at the time.

After the Supreme Court decision legalizing same sex marriage, the church released an official letter, reiterating their stance that gays are wrong and sinful, and specifically reminding local church leaders they were not to perform gay marriages. I didn't like that much, but honestly that last bit in particular was fair enough. The church doesn't support gay marriage, the church shouldn't perform gay marriages. So although the harping on about sin really annoyed me, the policy of not doing a thing they don't believe in doing was really fine by me.

But last Thursday... siiiiiiiiiiiiigh.

The church quietly, without announcement or official letter to the church members or the rest of the world, released a new handbook for local leaders, including a lovely new policy.

The children of gay couples are to be banned from belonging to the church, to put it simply. No baby blessings (christenings), no baptism at age 8, no priesthood ordination at age 12, no missionary service at age 18, unless, after reaching 18, they "disavow" their parents' lifestyle and receive specific approval from the highest levels of church authority. (Let me mention here that the specific approval thing is normally reserved for cases like allowing adult murderers to be baptized. Think on that one for a bit.) This particular turd sandwich came with a delightful side order of declaring anybody living with a same-sex partner, married or not, to be "apostate" and required to face disciplinary action from church leaders, regardless of any other factors. This mandatory discipline, again, is the kind of thing usually reserved for things like murder, flagrant adultery, etc.

The quietly released policy got leaked to the press, and everything pretty much exploded overnight. I don't know what church leaders expected, but the reaction they got probably wasn't it. They have since "explained" that this policy "protects" children by keeping them from being in a tug-of-war between parents living a sinful lifestyle and the church that would teach them their parents were evil. Except, of course, that this policy is based on who has primary custody of said children (since most Mormon children of gay parents are actually the result of failed straight marriages, a sort of unwritten church belief that you can "fix" gay by marrying straight and trying to just fake it till you make it.) So sure, instead of a tug of war between home and church, these kids now get to experience a tug of war between their gay parent who loves them and wants to have some custody of them, and their straight, faithful Mormon parent who wants them to get baptized and participate at church and now has to get primary custody to do so. Suddenly a bunch of amicable divorces have turned into bitter custody battles. Yay.

"Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not," said Jesus. "Unless their parents are gay," adds the church.

And here I am, pregnant with my first child, staring at this entire mess and wondering what the heck to do. The church just basically chucked all the gay people who aren't willing to stay single and celibate forever out the door, along with making a mess of the lives of already struggling children of divorce. I happen to be bisexual, and though I get straight passing privilege at church, so I could just ignore this, I really don't feel like I want to stay in an organization that quite explicitly doesn't want people like me.

Yet, of course, on the other hand I feel like the good bits of the church (which is most of it, really) were absolutely vital in shaping me into the person I am today. I've leaned on my faith countless times in cases where I'm not sure I could have coped without it. Should I deny my daughter that support, just because I'm upset?

On the gripping hand, the church has said the point of the policy is to protect children from learning one thing at home and another thing at church. I'll sure as heck be teaching my daughter that gays are okay at home! So if they're somehow actually right about this I'd be doing her a grave disservice by allowing her to attend at all. So hey, I should just jump ship entirely, right?

But it's just not that easy. I've got 37 years of faith and belief here, and one stupid decision by the church's leadership isn't going to invalidate that. I do still believe in God, in Christ, and in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

I don't know exactly what shape the future holds right now. But that belief is an interesting thing.

See, a couple of years ago I had an intense spiritual experience. Before that, I wasn't quite sure if homosexuality was a sin, or totally okay, or something more complicated than that. I'd been taught it was a sin, but something about that teaching didn't quite sit right. Still, jumping straight from "this is evil" to "this is good" isn't something most people do. So I was, at that point, pretty much of the opinion that it might be a sin, or it might not, but it was up to individuals to decide what they were going to do about it, and the only person's gay sex that was any of my business was mine. (And I wasn't having any, so no trouble there. Still am not. Finding a girl who's interested in a married woman is easier said than done, siiiigh. But anyhow...)

One day I was watching a video somebody had linked me of happy gay couples on their wedding days, in states where gay marriage laws had passed. They were all smiling, some of them in tears, but all of them so incredibly happy looking, and suddenly I felt that indescribable, uplifting feeling of the presence of the spirit, and knew, clearly as if it had been spoken in my ear, that what these couples felt was joy, as in the joy that the Book of Mormon teaches that men were made to feel, and that God looked down on their joy and approved of it. (I can feel a bit of that feeling now, talking about it. It makes me cry every time, but they're good tears.)

That message brought with it such peace. Suddenly I knew that someday, somehow, this would all be okay. That someday the betrayal I'd experienced when the church violated its principles and told me how to vote, how to try and use the law to force people to be righteous, would be healed. That someday, somehow, when the leadership was finally ready to accept it, all the church would know what I knew in that moment: that God welcomes "black and white, bond and free, male and female...Jew and Gentile" and gay and straight.

That revelation is why I know, don't just think, that the church leadership has gone astray with this new policy.

But that revelation is also why I still have faith.

Many members of the church are formally leaving it, basically choosing self-excommunication by turning in letters of resignation that remove them from the church's records. I don't blame those people one bit. This policy has said that they, or their close friends, or their family, are not welcome in the church, and so the natural response is to leave.

I don't feel especially welcome right now either, but I know something at least a few of those people may not know. I know that the God who is the true leader of this church (even if the men who should be hearing His guidance have stopped listening on this particular issue) still welcomes us all. And I have faith that someday, even if that day is far away, truth will out, God will prevail, and the doors that were closed on Thursday will be flung wide open. And on that day I, and my daughter, whatever orientation she turns out to be, will be able to come in and be a part of the kingdom of heaven. Not second-class citizens, allowed to sit in a pew but not to participate, but equal members, as welcome as any.

I still am not entirely certain what I'll do until that day comes. I still am not entirely certain it will come within my lifetime, though I hope it will. But I do have faith that the day will come. So I will leave my name on the church's records, in token of that faith, so that when the day does come, I'll be ready to return to the Good Shepherd's fold.

This entry was originally posted at http://bladespark.dreamwidth.org/1494001.html.

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Hi... I just wanted to say, that while I"m not particularly religious (more, mildly spiritual with the strong belief that one should make all efforts to leave the world a better place, and brighten the lives of those around you.) I found this to be a very touching post. THank you for sharing it. I'm so glad you have found and held on to love in your heart and I hope so much that the leadership of your church finds that love as well.

And I hope that you find something, someway, to keep yourself, and your family happy and content with your way of loving God. :)

Gosh this feels like such a terrible reply to that lovely post you wrote, but I"m sick and feel terrible right now, haha, so, basically, I just wanted to say: I read this and enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts :)

I appreciate your response. :) I'm already starting to have thoughts and plans and wishes about how my future family will work out. Those notions look pretty good, really.

My past family is a rockier issue, given that my parents and at least two out of four siblings are *very* much convinced that the church leadership can do no wrong here. But they're not going to disown me or anything, and my other two siblings have both expressed support for me, which has been lovely.

I think it's possible for people to make mistakes, even when they're led by spirit in other ways. I think the current situation is an overreaction to the changing world around us. Some people are afraid. Fear leads them to make mistakes or even ignore the spirit's lead. If you honestly feel that, overall, you are in the right place, it seems like it's reasonable to stick with it and wait for things to get straightened out. It's also reasonable to be frustrated with the situation.

this was very interesting. thank you

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